June 21st, 2014

Krol dealing with dead arm, but no move — yet

The Tigers have taken Ian Krol at his word that he isn’t injured and can deliver out of the bullpen. After Krol’s struggles Friday night, though, there appears to be some question to that.

Krol, who admitted to shoulder soreness last weekend but said he felt fine a few days, said Saturday he’s going through a “dead arm” phase. His velocity was up Friday night compared to previous outings, but he said the life on his pitches was inconsistent.

Krol has been the one telling Tigers coaches and medical staff that he’s healthy. The choice of words from manager Brad Ausmus on Krol Saturday suggests some trepidation at this point.

“You don’t see the whip in his arm the last couple outings that we’ve seen before,” Ausmus said. “Velocity’s down a tick. He doesn’t have the snap on the breaking ball. He had that little bicep tendinitis a few days ago, said he felt better. I’m going to talk to him again about it.

“We’re going to need him later in the season. He’s had a decent number of appearances, so it’s something that we’re going to more than just keep an eye on.”

Krol’s velocity has dropped from 94 mph in May to 92.25 in June, according to brooksbaseball.net. He averaged just over 91 mph with his fastball his previous couple outings before topping 92 mph last night.

“He’s got that old-school mentality that he wants the ball no matter what. He’s never scared,” Ausmus said. “The unfortunate part is that he’s the type of guy that won’t tell me, or won’t tell Jeff Jones, is something’s not feeling great. He’ll always want the ball. But that’s the type of guy you want. You want the guy who’ll take the ball under any circumstances, but you want also want him to tell you when he’s not feeling great.

“I can tell the last couple outings that Krol still wasn’t feeling right,” Ausmus said. “When I ask him, he says he’s fine.”

Mark Anderson of the TigsTown.com site, which focuses on Tigers prospects, tweeted Saturday afternoon that lefty Pat McCoy is joining the Tigers from Triple-A Toledo. McCoy’s representatives have tweeted the same.

McCoy is not on the 40-man roster, so it wouldn’t be just a normal move for depth. If he’s coming up, the logical move is to replace another lefty.

Ausmus, of course, will never say if a reliever isn’t available to pitch before a game. When asked if Krol could benefit from an extended period of stretch, however, Ausmus said, “Possibly.”

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Indians

TIGERS (numbers against Trevor Bauer)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-3)
  2. Austin Jackson, CF (0-for-2, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-3, double)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-2, walk, K)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-3)
  7. Alex Avila, C (2-for-2, HR, walk)
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (0-for-2, K)

INDIANS (career numbers off Verlander)

  1. Michael Bourn, CF (10-for-24, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (14-for-60, 5 doubles, 6 walks, 23 K’s)
  3. Michael Brantley, LF (17-for-45, double, triple, 3 walks, 6 K’s)
  4. Jason Kipnis, 2B (3-for-26, double, 5 walks, 12 K’s)
  5. Carlos Santana, 1B (7-for-37, double, 3 HR, 5 walks, 7 K’s)
  6. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (6-for-18, double)
  7. Nick Swisher, DH (15-for-76, 6 doubles, 3 HR, 11 walks, 26 K’s)
  8. David Murphy, RF (9-for-28, double, triple, 4 walks, 6 K’s)
  9. Yan Gomes, C (2-for-8, double, walk, 2 K’s)

P: Trevor Bauer

Torii Hunter: Keep J.D. Martinez in there

Torii Hunter is proud, as he should be. He isn’t crazy. He knows what J.D. Martinez is doing.

He knows better than to expect to get his old job back whenever he’s ready to play in games again. Because if he was the manager, he wouldn’t do it, either.

“Play the hot hand,” Hunter said after Martinez’s latest heroics Friday night. “If it’s going to bring a ring, you keep that sucker in there. It’s no big deal. Seen it. Done it. Been there. I’m about winning. Even when I come back, hopefully he stays in there.

“Keep him in there, keep him hot. Always play the hot hand. If I was the manager, that’s what I would do.”

The slow recovery of Hunter’s left hamstring has rendered that decision moot for now. Hunter ran on the field Friday afternoon, ran bases at about 80 percent of game speed, and took batting practice once again. He plans on running the bases again Saturday, this time close to full speed, and see if he might be able to pinch-hit tonight.

As far as returning into a game, however, any plans to do so this weekend seem to have dissipated.

“We’ll probably wait and see how it feels on Monday,” Hunter said.

Game 70: When bullpen attrition met the bullpen’s condition

Here’s the problem Brad Ausmus is going to face every time he goes to his bullpen in the seventh or eighth inning:

  • He has three relievers who have earned his trust to bridge the gap between the starting pitchers and closer Joe Nathan: Lefty Ian Krol, righty specialist Al Alburquerque and righty setup man Joba Chamberlain.
  • He has three relievers among the American League top 10 in appearances this season: Ian Krol, Al Alburquerque and Joba Chamberlain. All three have appeared in about half of the Tigers’ games so far.
  • Krol is in his first full Major League season, and was a starting pitcher in the minor leagues until last year. He already has appeared in more games this year when he has in any year as a pro.
  • Chamberlain and Alburquerque both have significant injury histories that include Tommy John surgeries.

So when J.D. Martinez’s three-run home run in the top of the eighth turned a 2-0 pitching duel into a 5-0 Tigers lead, Ausmus saw a chance to spare a reliever. Alburquerque already pitched the seventh, so he could choose between Krol and Chamberlain.

Ausmus opted to use Krol. Once he made that decision, he was essentially committed to sticking with Krol.

“When the inning started, it was a 5-0 lead, so I don’t really want to burn Joba out with a five-run lead,” Ausmus said. “If we start putting Joba in every time we have a five-run lead or less, there won’t be a Joba come August and September. We went with Krol because after the first hitter, it was really lefties and switch-hitters. Even though one of their switch-hitters actually hit lefties better than lefties, sometimes you have to take a chance. But it was just an off night for Krol.”

It was a really bad night for Krol, which by the end meant it was a night of work for Chamberlain.

As Ausmus pointed out, he only had to face one hitter. Still, it was a day that his core three had to pitch.

“The game dictated that we had to,” Ausmus said. “When we have a 5-0 lead with two innings to go, we’ve got to win that game. I don’t want these guys’ appearance totals to get too high, but we’re in a situation where we’ve gotta win that game.”

Whether the wear and tear is already showing on Krol is up for debate. He dealt with shoulder soreness a week ago but pitched through it, but has now given up seven runs on 11 hits over 5 2/3 innings in eight June outings. While he’s maintaining a pretty good clip against lefties (.231 average), right-handed hitters have put 18 hits over 11 1/3 innings against him, including five home runs.

With lefties and switch-hitters alternating in Cleveland’s lineup, he needed to get a right-handed hitter out. He got none. Mike Aviles singled, Asdrubal Cabrera homered, and Carlos Santana homered after that.

Krol’s fastball, which often approaches the mid-90s, sat at 90-92 on Friday.

The Tigers cannot afford to lose relievers at this point. They have another core reliever on their way if Joel Hanrahan progresses, but he’s coming off Tommy John surgery and will have to be watched with his workload. Moreover, losing another reliever would mean Hanrahan simply continues an undermanned bullpen rather than enhances it.

Ausmus is going to face this decision again, probably several times. How he handles it, and the bullpen in general, could determine a lot about this season.